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Cruise Trend - Avoiding Travel Scams
Deal locally, face-to-face —follow this one rule and avoid 99% of scam attempts. Find CLIA Certified Cruise Agent is even more equipped with the skills and knowledge and are especially qualified to assist you in choosing the perfect cruise and ensuring you the best vacation value. - See more at:
When you surf over to a cruise agency's Web site, or dial up their 800 number, you may be dealing with one of the top cruise-only wholesalers in the country, a local franchisee of a large full-service travel agency, or a very knowledgeable cruise specialist at a small travel agency. Or, it may be a novice working off of his or her kitchen table.
So, how can you tell the difference and find a good, reputable travel agent or agency -- and avoid a bad booking experience? Unfortunately, agents tell us that the travel industry is not well-regulated, and just about anyone can just print up business cards, hang out a shingle and start selling travel. The majority of states do not require any type of registration, certification, licensing or consumer protection measures for travel agencies, although this is beginning to change. Bottom line: It is crucial to know who you are dealing with.
Your best bet is to talk to friends, co-workers, relatives and associates and ask them if they know of a good, reputable, local agent who specializes in cruises. You can visit CLIA web site and find certified cruise specialist http://www.cruising.org/cruise-vacationer/cruise-travel-guide/clia-agent-finder
Pay with a credit card. For your best protection against either a dishonest seller of travel or possible supplier bankruptcy, always pay for your cruise fare -- both the initial deposit and the final payment -- with a major credit card such as Mastercard, Visa or American Express. Under the Fair Credit Billing Act, you are entitled to protection (via a chargeback of disputed fees to your account) if a merchant fails.
Important note: This protection may not apply to those using debit or check cards; it's important to confirm policies with your issuing bank before you charge.
Ensure your money is in the right hands. After you've made a payment, review your credit card or bank statement and make sure that any applicable charges originate directly with the cruise line, not with the travel agency. That way, you'll know that the cruise line has definitely received your money. If you must pay by check or money order, it should be made payable to the cruise line -- not to the agency or to an individual.
Get proper confirmation of your booking. Insist on getting the actual cruise line's confirmation numbers, not just a confirmation number from your agency. Not only will you then know that your information and money is in the right hands, but you'll also be able to pre-reserve shore excursions, restaurant reservations and spa appointments (where available) on the cruise line's Web site.
Purchase travel insurance -- but do so wisely. Cruise Critic has long advised travelers to purchase travel insurance directly from respected third-party insurers rather than the cruise lines themselves, as the latter's policies do not protect customers should the cruise line go out of business. Do note, however, that most insurers provide financial insolvency protection for cruise lines as well as airlines, hotels and tour operators -- but not travel agencies. Learn more in our Travel Insurance Primer for Cruise Travelers .
Check up on an agency before giving them your business. Ask if the agency belongs to any of the following organizations: ARC, IATA, ASTA, ARTA, CLIA or NACOA. A legitimate agency should belong to at least one or two of these groups. Check, too, with the Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been registered about the agency. You may also want to contact the attorney general's office in the state where you live and the state where the agency is based.
Remember: If it sounds too good to be true... Be very cautious about dealing with any travel company that says you've won something or sends you a certificate in the mail for a trip that sounds too good to be true -- because it probably is. Never give out your credit card number to a telephone solicitor (unless you have initiated the call and you know the company that you are dealing with) and never send cash, checks or money orders to a travel company that you do not know (unless all of the details of the trip are supplied to you in writing first).
  • Do not extend payment to anyone you have not met in person.
  • Beware offers involving shipping - deal with locals you can meet in person.
  • Never wire funds (e.g. Western Union) - anyone who asks you to is a scammer .
  • Don't accept cashier/certified checks or money orders - banks cash fakes, then hold you responsible.
  • Transactions are between users only, no third party provides a "guarantee".
  • Never give out financial info (bank account, social security, paypal account, etc).
  • Do not rent or purchase sight-unseen—that amazing "deal" may not exist.
  • Refuse background/credit checks until you have met landlord/employer in person.

Who should I notify about fraud or scam attempts?

Home Based Travel Agent Scams

Free Cruise

How the scam works:

You get the call you've been waiting for to break you out of your mundane, day-to-day existence. A nice person on the other line tells you you've just won a free Florida or Bahamas cruise! She begins telling you about the white, sandy beaches and how the cruise ship has a casino. She almost seems more excited than you are! How does the scam work? The crooks operate in two sneaky ways. Watch the video below to see in action the Free Cruise Scam caught on tape by a regular citizen:

Free Cruise Survey Scam

In the second variation of the scam, after building the trip up for almost three minutes the caller offhandedly mentions that you only have to pay some minor taxes and booking charges, to the tune of about $200. You figure that still sounds like a great deal, so you pay. It’s a real deal and you receive the plane ticket confirmation the next day. The trick is, the ticket is a companion ticket, meaning you can't take the flight unless your guest pays the full fare. You decide this still sounds advantageous, since you both fly for the price of one and you've already sunk some money in; so you and your partner again accept.

You fly to Florida and they meet you at the airport. They take you to a beautiful hotel and everything seems to be going to plan. They tell you about the departure of the cruise, which happens tomorrow. After they set you up at the hotel, they mention you have to attend a one-hour timeshare presentation tomorrow morning. You tell them that wasn’t part of the original deal, and they tell you that you won't have your return flight taken care of unless you go.
At the presentation, which is the main part of the scam, the company is very pushy and aggressive and they do things that are borderline illegal to get you to sign up to buy a time-share. This is really intense, almost threatening. Also, it ends up being a lot longer (six hours instead of one) so they can suck a few more people into buying. After the presentation, you finally get to go on the ship.
Unfortunately, it isn't the majestic wonder you were told it would be; most likely, it's more than 25 years old and smaller than a usual cruise vessel. It's also a gambling ship that features nothing other than casino tables and machines. It's just another way to suck money out of your pockets. There are a couple of ways this can shake out. Some people will have to fly to the departure city on their own dime. Others will just take your credit card number and run.

How to avoid the Free Cruise scam:

If you win something, you win it. You will never have to pay to claim that prize and if someone is telling you otherwise, they're taking you for a ride. Feel free to contribute below in the Comments section with names of questionable people or businesses approaching you.

How to report the Free Cruise scam:

Make your family and friends aware of this scam by sharing it on social media using the buttons provided. You can also officially report the scammers to the Federal Trade Commission using the links below:
Recognizing scams

Most scams attempts involve one or more of the following:

  • Email or text from someone that is not local to your area.
  • Vague initial inquiry, e.g. asking about "the item." Poor grammar/spelling.
  • Western Union, Money Gram, cashier check, money order, paypal, shipping, escrow service, or a "guarantee."
  • Inability or refusal to meet face-to-face to complete the transaction.
Examples of Scams

1.Someone claims your transaction is guaranteed, that a buyer/seller is officially certified, OR that a third party of any kind will handle or provide protection for a payment:

  • These claims are fraudulent, as transactions are between users only.
  • The scammer will often send an official looking (but fake) email that appears to come from cruisetrend or another third party, offering a guarantee, certifying a seller, or pretending to handle payments.

2. Distant person offers a genuine-looking (but fake) cashier's check

  • You receive an email or text (examples below) offering to buy your item, pay for your services in advance, or rent your apartment, sight unseen and without meeting you in person.
  • A cashier's check is offered for your sale item as a deposit for an apartment or for your services.
  • Value of cashier's check often far exceeds your item—scammer offers to "trust" you, and asks you to wire the balance via money transfer service.
  • Banks will cash fake checks AND THEN HOLD YOU RESPONSIBLE WHEN THE CHECK FAILS TO CLEAR, sometimes including criminal prosecution.
  • Scams often pretend to involve a 3rd party (shipping agent, business associate, etc.).

3. Someone requests wire service payment via Western Union or MoneyGram:

  • Deal often seems too good to be true, price is too low, or rent is below market, etc.
  • Scam "bait" items include free tickets, only pay taxes, 2 for 1 deal other high value items.
  • Scammer may (falsely) claim a confirmation code from you is needed before he can withdraw your money.
  • Common countries currently include: Nigeria, Romania, UK, Netherlands—but could be anywhere.
  • Rental may be local, but owner is "travelling" or "relocating" and needs you to wire money abroad.
  • Scammer may pretend to be unable to speak by phone (scammers prefer to operate by text/email).

4. Distant person offers to send you a cashier's check or money order and then have you wire money:

  • This is ALWAYS a scam in our experience—the cashier's check is FAKE.
  • Sometimes accompanies an offer of merchandise, sometimes not.
  • Scammer often asks for your name, address, etc. for printing on the fake check.
  • Deal often seems too good to be true.

5. Distant seller suggests use of an online escrow service:

  • Most online escrow sites are FRAUDULENT and operated by scammers.
  • For more info, do a google search on "fake escrow" or " escrow fraud."

6. Distant seller asks for a partial payment upfront, after which they will ship goods:

  • He says he trusts you with the partial payment.
  • He may say he has already shipped the goods.
  • Deal often sounds too good to be true.

7.Foreign company offers you a job receiving payments from customers, then wiring funds:

  • Foreign Agency/Tour Guide or Transporter may claim it is unable to receive payments from its customers directly.
  • You are typically offered a percentage of payments received.
  • This kind of "position" may be posted as a job, or offered to you via email.
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